THE BLACK BOOK

Turkey's celebrated postmodernist continues the exploration of identity begun in The White Castle (1991) in this often claustrophobic, byzantine mystery appropriately set in the author's native Istanbul. The city, like the story itself, is haunted by the past, a history that includes the Islamic conquest, the long dying of the Ottoman empire, the modernization implemented by Ataturk, and recent regimes threatened by Marxist and military plots. As snow begins to fall, Galip, a young lawyer, comes home to find that his wife, Ruya, a first cousin with whom he grew up in the old apartment block their family once owned, has disappeared, leaving him a 19-word farewell note written in green ink. Telling their family that Ruya is ill, Galip embarks upon a search for her that becomes both a realistic and metaphysical process of detection as he meticulously pursues even the slenderest clues. Convinced that Ruya is hiding out with her half-brother Jelal, a famous newspaper columnist who has also disappeared, Galip starts reading Jelal's old columns in search of clues. These erudite and idiosyncratic columns — everything from examinations of Islamic mysticism to musings on the day when extensive pollution will cause the Bosphorus to dry up — alternate with the chapters recording the ongoing investigation. Galip, long jealous of Jelal, assumes the columnist's identity by moving into one of his many hideouts, wearing his clothes, impersonating him on the phone, and even writing his columns. Like Jelal, Galip is also obsessed with the nature of identity, with reading secrets from people's faces, and with the possibility "of being both someone else and also myself." But this intense and often merely philosophical search ends abruptly in tragedy, and Galip is left writing stories like Jelal; for writing is the "sole consolation." Shades of Calvino with a Turkish twist. And with as many layers as a piece of baklava.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-374-11394-7

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1994

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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